Thirty-two years ago, a representative from a committee within the Town of Barnstable came to my office to ask if HAC would agree to open a shelter in Hyannis for homeless individuals. I remember the moment well. I didn’t want to do it. I asked if other organizations could do it and I was told that the most likely one had refused.
I thought about our mission to help people obtain decent housing and how this was “off mission” and would be a distraction. But my sense that someone needed to do it won out. At that moment and ever since, I have felt a “moral imperative” (a phrase coined by one of our Board members) to provide a safe haven for the neediest of our brothers and sisters.
I feel great pride in what we have been able to accomplish. For 32 years, 365 nights per year, we have provided a safe place for people to sleep, take a shower, and receive two nutritious meals a day. In the worst of weather we have kept people alive.
Thousands of volunteers from all across the Cape have helped in dozens of ways. An evening meal has been prepared by volunteers almost every night, serving more than a half a million meals over more than three decades.
We have put three additions on the building where our offices had previously been in order to improve our ability to provide a variety of services. We have made it possible for men and women to be entirely separate, including separate entrances.
In recent times, we opened a day center, keeping the facility open 24 hours a day rather than only at night. We have placed approximately 3,000 of our guests in permanent housing as well as many in part- or full-time jobs.
Perhaps most important of all, we have engaged everyone who was willing in discussions on how to improve their lives by addressing their biggest problems. Thanks to a great staff and leadership and the tireless work of a half dozen committed people in the community, NOAH is the best it has ever been, which is very satisfying for me and I hope for all those who work and volunteer at NOAH.
Locally, we have absorbed lots of criticism, but we have kept the faith and kept on working, doing our best to provide a safe, stable and decent emergency shelter.
But change is always inevitable. About six months ago another agency came forward and expressed interest in taking over the operation of NOAH. The organization operates other shelters and has a fantastic track record in raising money. They are convincing in their belief that they can do the job well. The HAC Board has encouraged me to consider this option of turning over the day-to-day running of the shelter.
The arguments for making the change are that the operation of the NOAH Shelter, and raising the money we need to stay open, takes an inordinate amount of time of many who work at HAC, including myself, and that if we were to give up the day-to-day operation we could develop and raise money for a more comprehensive approach to getting many more homeless individuals in to housing, which is central to our mission. There is a decision to be made. For me it has been a difficult one, especially since it is likely I will retire within the next 18 months and I want to hand off as doable a job as I can to my successor.
By the time you read this our Board will have made this decision. My recommendation will be to move ahead with the transfer. I am at peace with my recommendation because, if this change goes forward, we can do more to house homeless individuals and we will be leaving this work in good hands. Thirty-two years is a long time. I think we have a lot to be proud of.
|Read more about the NOAH Shelter decision by clicking this link.|